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No IP in the TPP Anymore

[ 17 ] November 30, 2016 |
Statute of anne.jpg

The Statute of Anne

My latest at the Diplomat takes a look at the state of intellectual property protection in the wake of the death of the TPP:

What does the death of the Trans-Pacific Partnership mean for U.S. intellectual property (IP) rights abroad? The United States pushed heavily, and controversially, for the inclusion of significant IP protections in the TPP. This push is consistent with a broader effort on the part of the U.S. government to include robust IP protection in just about every bilateral or multilateral trade agreement since the turn of the century.



Foreign Entanglements: Shit Fucked Up

[ 0 ] November 30, 2016 |

On the latest episode of Foreign Entanglements, Matt Duss and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross discuss the condition of Things Trump:

“Who Feels Like a Swim?”

[ 27 ] November 26, 2016 |
Charlie class submarine

Charlie class submarine

Serving on a Soviet submarine was some crazy shit…

One of the captains asked for volunteers to swim to the surface, and report on the plight of the boat. Two sailors exited through the torpedo compartment, swam to land, and were promptly arrested under suspicion of spying.

Boats! Lots of Boats!

[ 86 ] November 25, 2016 |

Invincible Armada.jpg

Some thoughts on the pursuit of 350…

As Stephen Stashwick and others have noted at The Diplomat, the U.S. naval lobby has fully embraced Donald Trump’s promise to increase the size of the fleet to 350 ships. Craig Hooper has some ideas about how to get to 350 fast; it would involve putting some prematurely retired ships back into service. Longer term, the U.S. Navy can only grow by slowing retirements and increasing construction, both of which will take some time to have a significant effect on numbers.

But there’s a contradiction.


[ 70 ] November 25, 2016 |

16774_10153278701743203_3669355577431509555_nWe are delighted to announce that Dan Nexon, long-term friend of LGM, has agreed to join the blog full time. Dan should be well-known to most readers here from Foreign Entanglements, Duck of Minerva and a variety of other venues.

A brief note; we’ve been discussing this move since the election, and we’re very happy to be able to move forward. The timing is obviously unfortunate, but accidental.

SEK Collected

[ 6 ] November 24, 2016 |

I’ve put together an In Memoriam page dedicated to SEK, with links from all of our posts this week, all of the other remembrances that I could find, and his collected works.  If you know of anything else worth adding, please let me know in comments.

The Collected Works

[ 26 ] November 23, 2016 |


On the web, Scott was an army unto himself.  Here’s a non-exhaustive listing of his works:

Incidentally, we have taken steps to ensure that the Acephalous archives remain available for the foreseeable future.


[ 6 ] November 23, 2016 |

This is the closest I ever came to meeting SEK:

The second closest was in February 2015, while I was in New Orleans for the International Studies Association conference. We planned to get together, but failed on account of his job responsibilities at Salon. As is often the case with such things, I anticipated that there would be more opportunities in the future.

Early this fall, Dave Ferguson wrote a fine essay about “losing” internet friends. The headline was widely misunderstood, as most people seem to have 10645156_322767337893430_5153440902287719841_nassumed that he meant a facebook defriending or some such, but in fact he was writing about the impact of losing a friend to death or social rupture. And of course he was writing about Scott; Dave did outstanding work through this entire difficult process of going to Houston and keeping Scott’s friends updated about his condition. In any case, Dave’s point was that losing an internet friend can hurt as much as losing an FTF friend; it just depends on the nature and depth of the friendship.

Tracking back, my first exchange with Scott came in early 2008. We were bouncing back and forth in comments and blog about the final season of the Wire, and Scott was wondering if I’d managed to get ahead of the HBO viewership (I had). I had been aware of Scott previously, as it was impossible not to know him from his blogospheric misadventures, and this was when the Blogosphere was still a thing. Not quite two years later Scott e-mailed with an inquiry about joining the blog. There was no debate; he fit perfectly with what LGM had become, and we welcomed him with open arms.

Co-blogging is not necessarily an intensive affair, but over the course of seven years we talked a great deal about work, personal lives, academia, and the world writ large. Earlier this year we commiserated over the near-simultaneous dissolution of our respective marriages. Mutual friends can attest that we reacted very differently, but then the situations were quite different, and in any case the conversations helped me a great deal in moving forward from a dark place.

Scott was a magnificent contributor, not simply to LGM but to the broader conversation about politics and art that emerged in the heyday, and persisted into the twilight, of the Blogosphere. He was a few degrees askew, and this askew-ness gave him a vantage point into the core of the intersection of the aesthetic and the political; he understood as deeply as anyone the complex relationship between the message, the messenger, and the medium. I’m hardly the first to note that his talents were tragically wasted in some of the gigs that he had to take on in order to earn a living. Sadly, he became ill just as the internet powers-that-be were beginning to take advantage of what he could offer.

He was also occasionally maddening, and someone who is a few degree askew cannot help but to be. Now and again we had to restrain him from pointless, destructive crusades. At other times he didn’t wait to be restrained. He understood that he was maddening, and wasn’t unhappy about having that impact, but I don’t know that he ever fully understood why some people found him so confounding. But there was never any question that he was worth it, both as a friend and as a contributor.

I will miss him terribly.


[ 316 ] November 21, 2016 |

SEK has passed.


Taking Democracy for Granted

[ 124 ] November 21, 2016 |

[This is a guest post by Valerie J. Bunce, the Aaron Binenkorb Chair of International Studies at Cornell University, and Mark R. Beissinger, the Henry W. Putnam Professor of Politics at Princeton University. Cross-posted at Duck of Minerva. ]

How might American democracy end? The United States would not be the first long-lasting government to collapse. Whether they supported communism or not, those who lived under it assumed, in Alexei Yurchak’s words, that communism was forever—until it was no more.   Developments in the United States bear an uncomfortable resemblance to those that fore-shadowed the decline of democracy elsewhere in the world (Poland, Hungary, and Russia, and earlier, Latin America in the 1960s and interwar Europe).

There are three pieces to the puzzle of why and how democracies fail. The first involves public opinion. In Russia, for example, growing public worries about crime and social disorder, economic collapse, and national security paved the way for the rise of a leader who promised political order, economic growth, and strong government—in short, making Russia great again. In many instances of democratic collapse, there was a decline in tolerance, as publics grew more polarized, more locked into their own views and into networks of like-minded people, and more distrustful of and angry at each other and the government. There was a thirst for new styles in politics, flamboyant rhetoric, and a willingness to gamble. Citizens voted for change; they did not vote to end democracy.

The second piece is dysfunctional political institutions. Just as the rise of Victor Orbán in Hungary was preceded by the collapse of the party system, so too was the rise of Hitler and Mussolini foreshadowed by prolonged parliamentary paralysis. In failing democracies, public trust in political institutions declines, and government can no longer fulfill the basic tasks expected of it. In the American case, there is ample evidence of such trends—from the Republican obstruction and gridlock in Congress to repeated attempts to shut the government down. Little wonder that trust in Congress has plummeted to the mid-20 percent level since 2010.  Mistrust of government is contagious, poisoning democratic processes. Echoing Trump’s rants about a “rigged system,” nearly a half of all registered voters believe that voter fraud occurs somewhat or very often in the United States, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

The final piece of the puzzle is the role of politicians in terminating democracy. As Nancy Bermeo reminds us, it is political leaders that end democracy, not angry publics or dysfunctional institutions. But how leaders have taken down democracy has changed over time. During the interwar years and the Cold War, democracy tended to end through military coups or declarations of national emergency. By contrast, contemporary would-be autocrats have played a more subtle game, undermining democracy from within. Claiming to have the support of the people (and therefore the right to use all means necessary to defend the nation), they use legislation, appointment powers, and informal interventions to whittle away at checks-and-balances, the rule of law, and civil liberties.

The elections that bring these dangerous leaders to power typically feature an electorate composed of large numbers of alienated, floating voters. All of the candidates have unusually high unfavorability ratings (which depresses voter turnout, skewing the representativeness of the electorate), and the choice confronting voters boils down to supporting experienced but compromised establishment politicians or risky outsiders. Outsider-politicians exploit public disgust with politics, attack their opponents in personal rather than policy terms, make grandiose promises, and talk of a return to the good old days by restoring the culture, society, and status of the past.

Most important is their claim to defend the nation. This is a perfect issue for ambitious amateur politicians because it plays so well to public fears about national security, personal security, and cultural diversity. Being for the nation, like being for economic growth and against crime and polio, is a valence issue—there is only one acceptable position. The costs of nationalist tropes for democracy are many. They give candidates a license to avoid talking about policy. They silence the opposition, since it cannot possibly come out against the nation. They sow divisions among the public. But perhaps their greatest danger is that they give rise to the demand for strong leadership—leaders who will do anything to defend the nation from its enemies.

To those who view American politics as exceptional, Trump is an anomaly that is difficult to explain. To us, his politics are disconcertingly familiar.

Durer Revelation Four Riders.jpg

Revelation: Four Riders. By Albrecht Dürer.



[ 68 ] November 21, 2016 |

Hey all,

There are plenty of rumors floating around regarding SEK’s status.  While everyone probably has a sense of where things are going, we will refrain from posting anything here until we receive definite information.  Please do your best to avoid speculation until we have reliable news.

See also the GoFundMe, which will remain relevant under any eventuality.



The Rest of the NatSec Team…

[ 53 ] November 18, 2016 |

Seal of the United States Department of State.svg

Flynn is NSA, and Pompeo will be at CIA. See Chris Mirasola’s thoughts here; long story short, neither of them are great, and both are probably on the negative side of what we would expect from a “normal” GOP administration. Flynn is paranoid, has major axes to grind with a lot of different people, and has extensive Russian ties; Pompeo is pro-torture and anti-Iran deal.  Major. Ugly. Shit.

Here’s the SecState shortlist, in my order of preference:

  • Mitt Romney: Not insane, reasonably well-respected in the international community, sufficient stature to say “no” to some of the worst impulses of Team Trump
  • Zalmay Khalilzad See above, plus real-world diplomatic experience, minus some degree of stature.
  • Bob Corker Less diplomatic experience than Khalilzhad, less stature than Romney
  • Nikki R. Haley Ok, whatever.  Getting to the dregs.
  • Stanley A. McChrystal Smart enough guy in many ways, but no indication that he’ll have any institutional support to draw on, or that he knows much about the foreign service. Colin Powell with less experience and less gravitas
  • Rudolph W. Giuliani Sweet Jeebus, there’s still someone below this line? Apart from all the disastrous bits, he’s a halfway competent administrator, and he is firmly committed to the political survival of Rudy Giuliani, which makes it possible that he won’t completely burn the place down.
  • John R. Bolton Nexon prefers Bolton to Giuliani; I don’t.  State Department rank and file hates Bolton; Bolton hates pretty much everything about the international community; true believer on the anti-Iran stuff; experienced enough to know where the bodies are buried, dig them up, and use them to beat survivors to death with.  

SecDef I’m less worried about, because it tends to have some pretty wonky responsibilities:

  • Stephen J. Hadley Bridge to the traditional GOP foreign policy elite
  • Duncan Hunter Defense industry guy, but sometimes says no
  • Jon Kyl Not quite sure why he’s here
  • Tom Cotton Only one of these who could do some real damage
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